King County Councilwoman Kathy Lambert backs new plan to save Metro service with $20 car tab fee
August 12, 2011
UPDATED — 2:25 p.m. Aug. 12, 2011
Two King County Council members from the Eastside broke ranks with their fellow Republicans to back a $20 car tab fee to shore up Metro Transit’s budget.
Councilwomen Jean Hague and Kathy Lambert, who represents Snoqualmie Valley, have pledged to vote for the fee at the council’s Monday, Aug. 15, meeting. The fee was proposed by King County Executive Dow Constantine.
Hague and Lambert had previously opposed bypassing voters. To enact the fee, which sunsets after two years, Constantine needs a supermajority of six votes on the nine-person council. Before the bipartisanship deal was announced, only the council’s five Democrats had planned to vote for the fee.
Without the fee, Metro would have had to cut its service by 17 percent, according to county officials. The cuts would have affected the Eastside, including fewer trips on Route 209, which serves Snoqualmie Valley.
In return for Hague’s and Lambert’s support, reforms to improve efficiency have been added to the proposal. The new plan also maintains the current level of Metro service on the Eastside. It would have been cut by 120,000 service hours under the original proposal.
Other changes include replacing up to 20,000 service hours of low-demand routes in rural areas with more efficient service, such as Dial-a-Ride Transit service, community access transportation services, Vanpools and van shares.
Seattle’s Ride Free Area will also be phased out by October 2012, which will save an estimated $2.2 million a year.
“This enhanced negotiation has given us an in-depth opportunity to look at how we can make transit and transportation stable for the next two years,” Lambert said. “Preserving our existing hours during these times of economic uncertainty is vital to business success and citizens going to their jobs in our community.”
The proposed changes made it a very different legislative package from what was initially proposed,” Hague said.
Metro has endured deep cuts in recent years due to declining gas and sales tax revenues. Without the car tab fees, it is expected to have to deal with a $60 million a year budget shortfall least through 2015. The $20 fee is expected to bring in about $25 million a year.
Metro will use about $70 million in reserves to close the remaining budget gap in 2012 and 2013.